The Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce will become exactly 100 years old on June 7th of 2020.  However, the Chamber beginnings go back several years before that.  We can document the people and events that led up to the formation of our local Chamber of Commerce through the pages of The Fallbrook Enterprise, a weekly 4 page newspaper that reported on the social, civic and commercial events in this small town of less than 1,000 people. (1)

The Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce evolved directly from an organization called the Fallbrook Commercial Club which was first organized on April 27th, 1911. (2)  Eugene Burr, the proprietor of a wagon, windmill, and furniture shop is elected as the Fallbrook Commercial Club’s first president.

 Edward “Rex” C. Reader, owner of Fallbrook Mercantile is elected as vice president. (3)  The Fallbrook Mercantile is located on the corner of Main & Alvarado. (4)   Dues to belong to the new Commercial Club are set at $1.00 per quarter. (5) 

Rex Reader and Family

William Markey Smelser, is elected the Secretary/Treasurer of the Club.  W.M. Smelser and his brother Harry H. Smelser are directors of Fallbrook Citizens Commercial Bank, that they recently founded along with their father, Horatio Smelser.  The Smelser family had just recently relocated from the Midwest, bringing great changes to Fallbrook. (6)  Apparently the Smelsers had significant influence on the creation of the Commercial Club which meets at the Fallbrook Citizens Commercial Bank.

The Commercial Club was formed to represent the business community of Fallbrook.  The Commercial Club affiliates with the Escondido, San Diego, and Los Angeles Chambers of Commerce, plus many other business organizations throughout the state.  The Commercial Club becomes a very active member in the Chamber of Commerce of Northern San Diego County throughout the 1910s.  George Houk, owner of Red Mountain Ranch in Fallbrook is president of the Chamber of Commerce of Northern San Diego County, which had its office in Escondido the geographic center of the Chamber of Commerce of Northern San Diego County.  William M. Smelser, becomes Treasurer of the Chamber of Commerce of Northern San Diego County as well as the Fallbrook Commercial Club.  (7)

In 1916 there are significant economic changes are coming to Fallbrook.  Following the floods that washed away the train tracks in the Santa Margarita canyon in January, the Santa Fe Railroad is abandoning the canyon and rebuilding their line on higher land coming to a new $10,000 train station being constructed in Fallbrook.  With the promise of the train, a new olive and pickling plant and a Citrus packing house are also being constructed.  These packing houses expect to be shipping boxcars of agricultural products, which will bring many good jobs to Fallbrook and cash to the growers.  With the increase in new housing being built for job seekers, SDG&E has committed to bringing electricity to Fallbrook; which means electric lights in homes, stores and along the streets, plus dependable electric power for pumping water. (8)

On August 21, 1916, the Commercial Club is re-organized.  The following officers were elected; H.V. Alexander, the Fallbrook Enterprise newspaper publisher is elected president, Jess D. Hardy of Hardy’s Drug Store, as vice president, and W.M. Smelser of Citizens Commercial Bank, still serving as Treasurer.  In December of 1916 the Commercial Club publicly promotes a membership campaign with a goal getting 100 members in 1917.  Annual dues are $2. (9)

R. H. Blacklidge is a prominent Fallbrook surveyor and civil engineer, who is the proprietor of a business developing irrigation systems for farmers. In 1920 he is the president of the Commercial Club. (10)

On June 7th, 1920, the Commercial Club with Rollin H. Blacklidge as president holds its last meeting.  During this meeting, the name of the Fallbrook Commercial Club is permanently changed to the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce.  R.H. Blacklidge is re-elected as president for the newly named Chamber and Roswell Moody is re-elected as secretary. One of the reasons expressed for changing the name was that Commercial Club meant a club of business men meeting for commercial reasons while Chamber of Commerce stands for Community betterment.   At the meeting Blacklidge was given the task to prepare a slate of candidates for the offices of Treasurer, several vice-presidents and fourteen directors, seven of whom are to be women.  (11)

    1. Based on the 1900 U.S. Census.  Actual population will depend on exactly which year we are measuring and how wide of an area surrounding central Fallbrook is included in the count.
    2. The Fallbrook Enterprise newspaper, April 29, 1911 pg.1 & December 8, 1916  pg.1.
    3. Ibid.  Eugene Burr has a weekly advertisement in the Fallbrook Enterprise in 1911 for his wagon, buggy, and furniture business.  See attached photo of Eugene Burr’s buggy store.
    4. ‘Fallbrook Mercantile, The Rex Reader Story’, recalled by daughter Babs Somacal. Published in Fallbrook in Review vol. 5, pg. 1.  See attached photo of Fallbrook Mercantile.
    5. The Fallbrook Enterprise newspaper, April 29, 1911 pg.1.
    6. ‘History of the Masonic Cemetery’, prepared by Don Rivers of Fallbrook Historical Society and published in Fallbrook Village News, September 10, 1998.
    7. The Fallbrook Enterprise newspaper, August 31, 1917 pg. 3.
    8. The Fallbrook Enterprise newspaper, November 17, 1916 pg.1
    9. The Fallbrook Enterprise newspaper, June 11, 1920  pg.1.
    10. The Fallbrook Enterprise in 1920 has weekly advertisements for Blacklidge’s civil engineering business and he is routinely mentioned as the Chamber of Commerce president.  A portrait of R.H. Blacklidge has not been located.
    11. The Fallbrook Enterprise newspaper, June 11, 1920  pg.1

    Tom Frew, Historian Fallbrook Historical Society